Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
Wheaton College


Laura Macesic Ekstrom

Laura Macesic Ekstrom

Assistant Professor of Biology

Ph.D., Florida Atlantic University
B.Sc. with Honours, McMaster University

Research Interests

  • Biomechanics and control of locomotion in vertebrates
  • Evolution of skeletons
  • Morphological plasticity

I am interested in locomotion in a variety of animals. Currently, I am using the cane toad as a model organism with which to explore how the vertebrate body stabilizes itself upon impact.  Tools used to investigate this topic include: electromyography, high-speed video, and force plates.  I am also continuing to investigate benthic locomotion in stingrays and more broadly, examining the cartilaginous skeleton of elasmobranchs (sharks, skates, and rays).

Click here to see a recent clip from Daily Planet (Discovery Channel Canada) highlighting some of my toad research in collaboration with colleagues at Brown University.


Dean M, Ekstrom LJ, Ornan EM, Ballantyne J, Witten PE, Riley C, Habraken W, & Omelon S. 2015. Mineral homeostasis and regulation of mineralization processes in the skeletons of sharks, rays and relatives (Elasmobranchii). Seminars in Cell & Developmental Biology. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.semcdb.2015.10.022

Ekstrom, LJ & Gillis, GB. 2015. Pre-landing wrist muscle activity in hopping toads. Journal of Experimental Biology. 218: 2410-2415.

Gillis, G, Ekstrom, L, & Azizi, E. 2014. Biomechanics and Control of Landing in Toads. Integrative and Comparative Biology. doi: 10.1093/icb/icu053.

Ekstrom, LJ & Kajiura, SM. 2013. Pelvic girdle shape predicts locomotion and phylogeny in batoids. Journal of Morphology. 275: 100-110.

Bilecenoglu, M & Ekstrom, LJ. 2013. Pelvic fin walking and punting behaviour of Raja radula Delaroche, 1809 observed in the Sea of Marmara. Mediterranean Marine Science. 14: 158-161.

Macesic, LJ, Mulvaney, D, & Blevins, EL. 2013.  Synchronized Swimming: Coordination of pelvic and pectoral fins during augmented punting by freshwater stingray Potamotrygon hystrix.  Zoology. 116: 144-150.

Macesic, LJ & Summers, AP. 2012. Flexural stiffness and composition of the batoid propterygium as predictors of punting ability. Journal of Experimental Biology. 215: 2003-2012. (with cover and an Inside JEB feature)

Curtis, TH & Macesic, LJ. 2011. Observations of breaching behavior in juvenile bull sharks, Carcharhinus leucas. Florida Scientist. 74(4): 253-257.

Macesic, LJ & Kajiura, SM. 2010. Comparative punting kinematics and pelvic fin musculature of benthic batoids. Journal of Morphology. 271(10):1219-1228.

Macesic, LJ & Kajiura, SM. 2009. Electric organ morphology and function in the lesser electric ray, Narcine brasiliensis. Zoology. 112: 442-450.

Kajiura, SM, LJ Macesic, TL Meredith, KL Cocks, & LJ Dirk. 2009. Commensal foraging between double-crested cormorants and a Southern stingray. The Wilson Journal of Ornithology. 121: 646-648.


Student Research

Student Theses:

2015 Janine Kopeski: Kinematics and muscle activity during punting in freshwater stingrays.

2014 Christopher Panzini: The role of vision in the ability of cane toads (Bufo marinus) to dissipate three-dimensional forces.